How to play two pair
Texas Hold em Starting Hands » Two Pair
Many newer Texas Holdem players don't realize the importance of knowing how to play two pair or seeing two pair in the flop texture. This is crucial knowledge, however, because two flopped pair may not be nearly as good as you think it is at first, and you'll have to bind this understanding into your fold strategy to prevent catastrophic losses.
Now, for the newer player one of the most deceptive hands in Holdem occurs when the board texture after the Turn leaves you with three pair. It's even more deceptive if one of your pairs is a high one such as Jacks or Queens. What's wrong with this, you wonder? Well, in poker, there are no rewards for holding three pair; two pair are all you're allowed to play. And guess what? If you get overly excited, you may start making foolish bets. And you also may lose sight of the fact that there's a good likelihood that the board texture at this point is helping other players, too, and possibly helping players more than it's helping you. These are situations where you have at one of your pair get "counterfeited"--it's useless and may actually be someone else's gain at your expense.
THE GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY OF TWO PAIR
Imagine that you hold J-9 in the hole and after the flop and turn you see: 4-9-J-4. That 4 on the turn has harmed your chances, not helped you at all. How so? If one of your opponents just tripped up, the two pair you are allowed to play just got beat. Furthermore, anyone with an overpair has you beat, too, with a high two pair, while you have a mere four outs to hope for on the River.
Now, what if you were dealt, say, Q-7 and the texture after the turn is: Q-7-10-10. Looking good for you, huh? Not so fast. Thanks to that 10 on the turn, it's fairly easy for any opponent who's got a good enough hand to still be playing to out-kick you. If a player was fortunate enough to be dealt KK or AA they've got you beat now, too. Any player holding just one Queen plus a low card himself will now split the pot with you even if you both wind up the winners. If you stay in to see the River and the board sees another 7 (not likely), you've merely got a weak full house and any player with Queen has you beat outright.
Not as easy or great as it might have seemed at first, huh?
WHAT TO DO?
In these situations, you've got two pair after the flop. Whenever you find yourself making two pair after you see the flop, start looking very closely at the betting/raising/calling patterns of the other players who remain in. Be somewhat aggressive yourself and be the first to raise in the betting round if you're in the position to do so. A good three to four times BB raise is a good one to draw out other players. If you see someone else aggressively re-raising you, draw upon any experience you already have with them. If they are a tight player they probably do have you beat and you should consider folding. Since at this point you do have an authentically decent hand, if everyone checks around think about re-raising again to see if you can force anyone to fold to you.
And of course, in our above scenarios we are assuming you felt good enough to make it to the Turn. It's vital that you not start doing mental celebration dances when you get that "third pair", as you have seen. Use the same approach that you did on the flop, but this time be even more ready to fold if you get any inclinations that you could be beat.
OTHER THINGS TO LOOK FOR ON A BOARD-TEXTURE TWO PAIR AS PART OF YOUR FOLD STRATEGY
If we are talking the flop, look out for an opponent:
- Flopping a set
- Flopping two pair that beat yours
- Flopping a straight
If it's the Turn or River, watch out for an opponent:
- Making a straight or a flush
- Getting a running pair if he has a higher pair already
- Getting a higher two pair or a set that would kick yours if you make one
It takes practice to learn how to read the subtle indications that you might have to fold while having two pair. As always, knowing what to do exactly depends also upon your Texas holdem image and the situation you find yourself in.
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